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Ronald Firbank (1886–1926)

Author of Five Novels

47+ Works 1,166 Members 17 Reviews 11 Favorited
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About the Author

Born in London, the son of a wealthy businessman, Ronald Firbank was educated at Uppingham and Cambridge University. In 1909 he converted to Roman Catholicism and left the university without taking a degree. Instead, he embarked on extensive travels in Spain, Italy, the Middle East, and North show more Africa. By nature he was a rather solitary individual, perhaps because of his rather delicate health and his homosexuality. Firbank's first novel, Vainglory (1915), was originally published privately, as were other early works. He wrote his novels on blue postcards. Though slight, these works were innovative and prefigured the works of such writers as Ivy Compton-Burnett and Evelyn Waugh. Elements in the work of Aldous Huxley, Angus Wilson, and Iris Murdoch can also be attributed to Firbank's creativity. Firbank's original and subtle novels have appealed to a small but appreciative audience, and, during the 1950s and early 1960s, he posthumously acquired a band of devoted disciples. Firbank had a fine disdain for plot and a taste for eccentric characters. The world he created was small and creditable. The Complete Ronald Firbank (1961), with a preface by Anthony Powell, is a worthwhile edition of his works. Still a young man, Ronald Firbank died in Rome in 1926. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Ronald Firbank

Five Novels (1949) 216 copies
Complete Ronald Firbank (1961) 89 copies
The Flower Beneath the Foot (1923) 73 copies
Caprice (1917) 61 copies
Complete Short Stories (1990) 39 copies
Valmouth (1919) 37 copies
Prancing Nigger (1924) 36 copies
Vainglory (1915) 19 copies
Complete Plays (1994) 18 copies
The Early Firbank (1991) 18 copies
Santal (1921) 13 copies
Inclinations (1916) 10 copies
The Artificial Princess (1934) 8 copies
Firbankiana (1989) 8 copies
The Princess Zoubaroff (1920) 7 copies
Oeuvres romanesques (1991) 2 copies
The Complete 1 copy
Far away 1 copy
Princesse Aux Soleils (1974) 1 copy
Studium temperamentu (2009) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction (1992) — Contributor — 321 copies
The Oxford Book of English Short Stories (1998) — Contributor — 189 copies
American Aphrodite (Volume One, Number Four) (1951) — Contributor — 2 copies

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British Author Challenge February 2024: Emma Newman & Ronald Firbank in 75 Books Challenge for 2024 (Monday 5:34pm)

Reviews

"There she sits all day, reading Russian novels. Talk of gloom!" So says Mr. Smee of his wife, Mrs. Smee, in Firbank's Caprice, which is here to dispel any such gloom with its campy and satirical take on London's theatre scene in the early twentieth century. A modernist contemporary of Woolf and Joyce, Firbank wrote Caprice mostly in zany dialogue, quickly jumping from one scene to the next as if dubious of the reader's attention span.

Miss Sally Sinquier, daughter of a respectable provincial clergyman, sneaks off to London with some family heirlooms and a grandiose ambition to be an actress. Careless of an intriguing world about her, she falls in with a theatre crowd who both help and exploit her. She rejects the suggestion to start with small roles... I shall play Juliet. I shall have a season.... and throws her ill-gotten money into financing a production of Romeo and Juliet. Improbably it opens with great success, only for Miss Sinquier to fall through a stage trap door to her death the following day. C'est la vie, eh?

My dear, I once was thought to be a very pretty woman... All I can do now is to urge my remains.
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lelandleslie | 1 other review | Feb 24, 2024 |
Firbank is a riot! This book reminds me a bit of Morrissey’s List of the Lost. Of course, that should be no surprise really, since both of them are directly related to Oscar Wilde on the literary family tree. What sets them apart is Inclinations is unalloyed comedy and nearly all dialogue.

What kind of inclinations does this novel concern itself with, you may ask? Well, it’s about a middle-aged writer Miss Geraldine O’Brookmore, known as Gerald, who brings a fourteen year old girl (Miss Mabel Collins) on a trip to the Mediterranean. There’s basically no description of anything or explanation of what’s happening or who is speaking, so you have to be okay with feeling unsure about what’s going on. One of the characters is shot and killed and it was chapters later that I finally understood which one. Plot is not what this book is about. This book is about lines so funny and with such a nice ring to them that I will just give you a small sampling for your enjoyment:

Miss Collins clasped her hands. “I’d give almost anything to be blasé.”
***
“I don’t see Mrs Cowsend, do you?”
“Breakfast was laid for four covers in her room.”
“For four!”
“Or perhaps it was only three.”
***
“She writes curiously in the style of one of my unknown correspondents.”
***
[Talking about a costume ball]:
“Oh, Gerald, you could be a silver-tasselled Portia almost with what you have, and I a Maid of Orleans.”
“You!”
“Don’t be tiresome, darling. It’s not as if we were going in boys’ clothes!”
***
“Once she bought a little calf for some special binding, but let it grow up...and now it’s a cow!”
***
“Gerald has a gold revolver. ‘Honour” she calls it.”
***
“Is your father tall?”
“As we drive I shall give you all his measurements.”
***
“I had a good time in Smyrna,” she drowsily declared.
“Only there?”
“Oh, my dears, I’m weary of streets; so weary!”
***
“I’m told she [Gerald] is a noted Vampire.”
“Who ever said so?”
“Some friend of hers—in Chelsea.”
“What do Vampires do?”
“What don’t they!”

If you find this sort of off-putting, these lines really do make more sense, somewhat more sense, in context. In a chapter that is eight words long (“Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel!”), Miss Mabel Collins throws off the protectoress-ship of Gerald and elopes with a count. The final section of the book is different, slightly more conventional and somewhat Jane Austen-esque (“I’ve such news!” “What is it?” “The Chase is let at last.”) In this part, the Countess (Miss Collins-that-was) returns home to England with her toddler and there’s question in some minds about whether she is properly, legally married. I’m looking forward to Firbank’s next novel in 1917.

I’m only just now realizing that Firbank is the author that the main character keeps reading in The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst. I guess I thought Alan Hollinghurst just made him up. The thing is that his name sounds so made up, just “Fairbanks” with some of the letters taken out. Ugh, I learn everything backward.
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jollyavis | 2 other reviews | Dec 14, 2021 |
A fairly short social comedy. A bit like the 'Beverly Hill Billys', country folk move to big city and try to fit into high society.
A LOT better than expected given the alternative title 'the Prancing N*****'. Apparently the american publishers suggested that change so i forgive the author, plus the story is very surprisingly unracist. The N-word is only used by one person who's black and is only used as a term of endearment for her husband.
But there are other problems, the writing can be quite confusing at times and i mean apart from the fact that most of it is written in what i can only describe as a Jamaican accent. Its also often difficult to work out who's talking and there are references which only someone of the time could probably get. Still mildly entertaining though.… (more)
 
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wreade1872 | Nov 28, 2021 |
I only read the novella "Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli" in this edition. It begins with the baptism of a police-dog sponsored by the Duquesa of DunEden, and christened "Crack". A narrative is barely existent but the dialogue is arch.
 
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ivanfranko | Oct 31, 2020 |

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